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Unit 4
Hindu Mahasabha and Muslim League

Learning Outcomes

Upon the successful completion of the unit, the learner would be:

  • able to get an outline about the foundation and functions of Muslim League and Hindu Mahasabha
  • explained the participation of Muslim League and Hindu Mahasabha in the National Movement of India
  • exposed to the intricacies involved in the interaction between Congress and Muslim League and Hindu Mahasabha.


Communalism was not common in India until the second part of the 19th century. It is commonly known that Muslims and Hindus battled side by side during the Revolt of 1857. In the 1860s, the press seldom ever discussed the differences between Hindus and Muslims on a non-religious basis, let alone their competing interests. In this unit, let’s discuss the role and responsibilities of Muslim League and the Hindu Mahasabha in the Indian National Movement.

Key Words

Communalism, Simla Deputation, Two Nation theory


Communal issues took on a new dimension with the founding of the All India Muslim League (AIML) in 1906 and the All India Hindu Mahasabha (AIHMS) in 1915. Both of these organisations supported Muslims and Hindus, respectively. The dispute between both the two religious communities picked up steam when these organisations were founded. Additionally, it created new challenges for Congress, a champion of secular nationalism.

6.4.1 Muslim League, 1906

A political party called the All-India Muslim League was founded in British India in 1906 and became known as the Muslim League. It was established as the Indian National Congress’s rival political organisation. It was founded with the intention of advocating for Indian Muslims’ concerns.

By 1901, it was believed to be crucial for a National Muslim Political Party to be formed. Representatives from all around India attended the meeting in Lucknow in September 1906, which served as the beginning of its establishment. In October 1906, the Simla Delegation gave the matter another look and resolved to establish the party’s goals in time for the Educational Conference’s annual meeting, which was going to take place in Dhaka. While this was going on, Nawab Salimullah Khan produced a detailed plan in which he offered the name All-India Muslim Confederacy for the party.

Early Years
Sultan Muhammad Shah (Aga Khan III) was chosen as the Muslim League’s first honorary president, but he was absent at the organisation’s Dhaka inaugural meeting. Mohammed Ali Jinnah became a member of the Muslim League in 1913. The League’s original goal was to train students to work for the British Raj, but it quickly turned into a hub of political activity.

Participation in Nationalist Movement
Since their beginnings, the Muslim League has campaigned for unity in an independent India, but they have also expressed concern that Hindus, who make up the bulk of the population, will govern it. The Muslim League teamed up with Congress to promote Home Rule within the British Empire after the First World War (1914–18). Furthermore, Jinnah compiled the opinions of Muslims in India into 14 points in the late 1920s and early 1930s. These included suggestions for a federal government and for Muslims to make up one-third of the central government. In 1939, when Britain declared war on Germany, it also did so on behalf of India. Due to the lack of consultation, the Congress declined to accept this proclamation. The Muslim League, on the other hand, agreed to support India’s participation in the war even while they continued to oppose British rule in the hopes of improving their position in negotiations for independence. In 1940, Jinnah started arguing for the establishment of a separate Muslim state from areas that were then part of British India, a position that came to be known as the “two-nation theory.” Furthermore, Muslims in India started to support the idea of Pakistan as a separate entity.

6.4.2 Hindu Mahasabha

Some Hindu zamindars, moneylenders, and middle-class professionals began expressing anti-Muslim sentiments as early as the 1870s. They went so far as to assert that the British had saved Hindus from Muslim oppression and liberated the nation from “Muslim tyranny.” By claiming that Urdu was the language of Muslims and Hindi was the language of Hindus, they politicised the Hindi issue in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. In India around the beginning of the 1890s, anti-cow slaughtering propaganda was widely disseminated, with Muslims rather than British being the campaign’s primary aim. The British cantonments, on the other hand, were allowed to engage in widespread cow slaughter. As a result, this unhappiness frequently took a communal form and resulted in riots. The anti-cow slaughter campaign had faded by 1896, only to reemerge in a more aggressive form in the latter part of the twentieth century. The Hindu communalists frequently engaged in conflict for “Hindu” seats in legislatures and other positions of authority.

Eventually, a few groups with collective perspectives emerged. The Punjab Hindu Sabha, founded in 1909 by U.N. Mukherjee and Lal Chand, rejected Congress’ attempts to unite Indians of all colours into a united nation. They argued that Hindus ought to aid the colonial government in its crusade against Muslims.

Later, the All-India Hindu Mahasabha held its first meeting in April 1915 under the direction of the Maharaja of Kasim Bazar. The Congress successfully negated Hindu communalism and its group, the Hindu Mahasabha, but it remained inactive in the early days due to the preponderance of zamindars, nobles, and ex-bureaucrats among Muslims. A strong Hindu communal movement had the potential to render the Congress electorally obsolete. However, that didn’t happen. Numerous Hindus had already entered the Congress before the Hindu Mahasabha was established, particularly following the Swadeshi movement. They supported Congress even after the Mahasabha was established. Through Congress, they had been introduced to territorial nationalism. The Hindu community became a source of strength for the Congress. It didn’t seem likely that Hindu Mahasabha, with its small base and elite philosophy, would be able to erode the support of the Congress and drive Hindus away from the party. The Hindu Mahasabha stayed an elitist group without mass backing.So it is not surprising that the Congress, Muslim League, and British, as well as all other important political organisations at the time, ignored them.

But the strategy of preventing communalism from spreading domestically gained more traction in the 1920s and less traction in the 1930s. In addition, by the late 1920s, Congress’s hostilities with the Muslim League and the Mahasabha had greatly risen. It was difficult for the Congress leaders to remain active in both organisations. The Congress High Command put restrictions in place in 1938 to prevent officeholders from holding dual memberships in sectarian groups like the Muslim League and Hindu Mahasabha.


  • Formation of All India Muslim League (AIML) – Foundation – Simla Dep-utation
  • Early years of Muslim League
  • Participation of Muslim League in Nationalist Movement- Home Rule
  • Jinnah’s 14 points
  • ‘Two-nation theory’- Jinnah’s demand
  • Anti-cow slaughter propaganda
  • Establishment of Punjab Hindu Sabha
  • Formation of All India Hindu Mahasabha (AIHMS)

Objective type questions

  1. When was the All India Hindu Mahasabha (AIHMS)formed?
  2. When was the All India Muslim League (AIML) formed?
  3. What was the main aim behind the formation of the Muslim League?
  4. When and where was the formation meeting of the All India Muslim League held?
  5. Who suggested the name ‘All India Muslim Confederacy’ to Muslim League?
  6. Who was appointed as the first honorary president of the Muslim League?
  7. Where was the inaugural session of the Muslim League held?
  8. When was Mohammed Ali Jinnah joined the Muslim League?
  9. What was the initial aim of the Muslim League?
  10. What were the main proposals of the 14 points consolidated by Jinnah?
  11. What was the main demand Jinnah posed in the ‘two-nation theory(1940)?
  12. Who was the main target of the anti-cow slaughter propaganda of the 1890s?
  13. Who established Punjab Hindu Sabha and when?
  14. Who was the leader of the All-India Hindu Mahasabha in its inaugural session?

Answer to Objective type questions

  1. 1915
  2. 1906
  3. Representation of the interests of Indian Muslims
  4. September 1906, Lucknow
  5. Nawab Salimullah Khan
  6. Sultan Muhammad Shah (Aga Khan III)
  7. Dhaka
  8. 1913
  9. To prepare students for service to the British Raj
  10. To form a federal government and to have a one-third representation of Muslims in the central government
  11. The creation of a separate Muslim state
  12. Muslims
  13. U.N. Mukherjee and Lal Chand, 1909
  14. Maharaja of Kasim Bazar


  1. Discuss the role of Muslim League and Hindu Mahasabha in the history of Indian national Movement.

Suggested Reading

  1. Sarkar, Sumit, Modern India, 1885-1947, Delhi: Macmillian, 1985.
  2. Tara Chand, History of Freedom Movement in India.
  3. Desai, A.R, Social Background of Indian Nationalism, Mumbai:PopularPrakasan, 1986.
  4. Desai, A. R. Peasant Struggles in India, Delhi: OUP, 1979.
  5. Bandyopadhyay, Sekhar, From Plassey to Partition and After A History of Modern India.
  6. Chandra, Bipan, Communalism in Modern India (2nd edition.), Delhi: Vikas, 1987.
  7. Chandra, Bipin, Rise and Growth of Economic Nationalism in India, Delhi: HarAnand, 2010.
  8. Chandra Bipan, India’s Struggle for Independence, Penguin Books, 1988.
  9. Dube, Ishita Banerjee, A History of Modern India, Delhi: Cambridge University Press, 2015.
  10. Guha, Ranjit, Elementary Aspects of Peasant Insurgency in Colonial India, Delhi: OUP, 1983.